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The 6 Things You Should Do the Summer Before Senior Year
As seniors’ acceptance letters pour in and they begin to make their final college decisions, the concept of senior year and all that accompanies it is probably heavy on many juniors’ minds. The late November to early January application deadline most schools impose is likely already looming large on juniors’ schedules, and while the prospect of being at the top of the social hierarchy is exciting, the additional responsibilities that accompany club or sports team leadership can be nerve-wracking. Whether you feel like you’re not quite ready to be a senior or you feel like senior year couldn’t come fast enough, there’s no denying that it can be one of the most challenging years of students’ high school careers. Balancing college applications with the academic and extracurricular demands of senior year can be tricky, but it’s easier if you take steps over the summer to make sure you start off prepared. Armed with our guide, you’ll enter senior year ready to take on the world.
College Essay Brainstorming
It’s important to note that most college applications don’t even open until late summer. The Common App, for example, is available to students beginning August 1st. In general, we at AH don’t recommend students start their applications before this point. Though it may seem like the deadline is approaching fast, unless you’re applying ED or EA, you have still have half your senior year remaining before your apps are due – a lot can change in that time. You may have additional awards or activities that you want to add to your application, and even your essay topics might change significantly. With all this in mind, you can probably afford to hold off on churning out rough drafts of essays or filling in the activities section for a few weeks.
However, this isn’t to say you can’t start seriously considering the sort of information you might include on your application, particularly what you’ll write your essay on. Personal essays are one of the most important components of your application, especially at schools who boast holistic admissions, and writing a killer essay can be your key to success. For this reason, it’s smart to start brainstorming for potential personal statement ideas over the summer. If you can start the school year with a clear idea of what you want to write on, not only for the Common App but for supplementary essays as well, you can save yourself a lot of time and grief later on.
Preparing Your Activities List
Thinking about which activities and honors you want to list on your application is also a good way to prepare for senior year. The Common App only allows for students to describe 10 activities; others, like the University of California application, allow even less (the UC app provides 5 spaces). Consider not only which extracurriculars are most ostensibly impressive, but also those which you’ve spent the most time on or have the most intrinsic value to you. Determining which extracurriculars have been most meaningful to you can also help you narrow down what to write about for “Which extracurricular activity listed on your application has meant the most to you, and why?” supplement questions – which are a staple on many top schools’ applications.
We’ve already written a couple blog posts on the importance of summer activities, but just to be safe, we’ll state it again: it’s to your great advantage to utilize summers for activities like service projects, research opportunities, internships, and more. Not only do you have more free time in the summer to devote to extracurriculars you probably couldn’t fit into your schedule during the school year, you also have the freedom to travel and branch out beyond the extracurriculars that would normally populate your schedule. In addition, staying busy over the summer before senior year demonstrates your motivation and work ethic to colleges: you have to be pretty diligent to stay cooped up in a lab all summer while the sun shines.
Summer can be a great time to prepare for the final few standardized tests you need to take. If you haven’t gotten your dream score on ACT / SAT, SAT IIs, etc. now is the time!
Summer before senior year is an excellent time to tour the colleges you’re considering applying to. For a west-coaster with Ivy League aspirations, or a New England student who dreams of Stanford or UC Berkeley, summer provides an opportunity to travel across the country (or for international students, across the ocean!) without worries about homework assignments or missed school days.
Many colleges provide programming for prospective students over the summer, where students can take classes, attend seminars, and stay in the dorms at the college of their dreams. While applications for these programs are competitive and are due months before the summer begins, well-prepared students get the opportunity to experience life as a student at the college of their choice. Many of these programs also provide financial aid to students for which paying for the programs poses a financial difficulty.
Start Solidifying Your College List
Of course, your college list is extremely malleable – you can decide not to apply to a school the day before the application is due, or realize your dreams for attending a college 5 days before their due date. Though making changes to your list is common and inevitable, it certainly does simplify things if you’re able to come up with as complete and final a version of your college list as possible early on.
Finalizing your college list in advance can help you avoid a slew of annoyances, like paying to send test scores to a school you don’t even end up applying to, or rushing to think of a unique and engaging essay topic in the final hours before the application is due. Put the thought in and do the research early, and you’ll be thanking yourself later.
Senior year is a whirlwind of essays, formal dances, late nights, and acceptance letters; to the unprepared student, jumping headfirst into the madness can be daunting. However, if you follow our tips for a successful pre-senior year summer, you can start your final year of high school with ease and kiss college application stress goodbye.